EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — For the past four months, an F-35 Lightning II has endured extreme weather temperatures to certify the fleet to deploy to any corner of the world.
An F-35B from the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force in Maryland, has undergone rigorous climatic testing at the 96th Test Wing’s McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The laboratory supports all-weather testing of weapon systems to ensure they function regardless of climatic conditions.
With 13 countries currently involved in the program, the F-35 must be tested in meteorological conditions representative of those locations from which it will operate, ranging from the heat of the Outback of northern Australia, to the bitter cold of the Arctic Circle above Canada and Norway.
“We’ve designed an environment here at the chamber where we can simulate virtually any weather condition — all while flying the jet at full power in either conventional or vertical takeoff mode,” said Dwayne Bell, the McKinley Climatic Laboratory technical chief.
The F-35B was ferried to Florida in September 2014 to begin a six-month assessment of the aircraft’s performance in wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain intrusion/ingestion, freezing rain, icing cloud, icing build-up, vortex icing and snow.
“While we are testing in the world’s largest climatic testing chamber, we’re pushing the F-35 to its environmental limits — ranging from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to negative 40 degrees, and every possible weather condition in between,” said Billie Flynn, an F-35 test pilot who performed extreme cold testing on the aircraft.
“To this point, the aircraft’s performance is meeting expectations,” Flynn said. “It has flown in more than 100-degree heat while also flying in bitter subzero temperatures. In its final days of testing, it will fly through ice and other conditions such as driving rain with hurricane-force winds.
“We are learning more and more about the aircraft every day,” he continued. “The future warfighters can be confident the F-35 will perform in any condition they find themselves in for the future.”